Fans of this blog have asked for an update on how Florie, the “new generation hotel employee,” is faring on her Central and South American tour. When we left her, she was en route to Mexico where she was to begin her quest trading hotel management advice for room and board.
Her journey so far has taken her through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Her next destination is Costa Rica, where already 3 hotels are looking forward to hosting her. A prodigious blogger herself, Florie has kept her own readers up-to-date on her news.
Part of her original intention was to spread the word about revenue management to hoteliers who had up until now never thought much about it. For example, a hotelier may charge $60 per night for a beach cottage in the low season and $110 in the high season. Optimal revenue management? Clearly not. On the other hand, would dropping the mid-week price to $55 in the low season really make a difference? Maybe, but the hoteliers had other more pressing concerns.
Florie was able to generate the biggest impact by helping hoteliers to improve their websites. Not just the graphics and text on the website, but the search engine optimization and digital communication around it. A backpacker looking for a hostel through Central America is more likely to search via Google, read on-line travel guides and forums as they are to book via an online travel agency.
What can European new generation hoteliers learn from this? They can add all the high tech gimmicks they want, but if their website is not fast, attractive and usable and not well ranked in Google, they’re not going to get the amount of direct business they’d like.
A sizable amount of the business in the small properties in Central America comes via tour operators. Florie spent more time than anticipated advising also the hoteliers on strategies to pitch to tour operators, whether through pricing, packaging or PowerPoint.
Needless to say, the tour operator business is a segment that European new generation hoteliers have intentionally neglected, assuming that it entails too many exceptional cases and complex pricing. So they’ve been satisfied to let other properties pick up the slack. But tour operator business is not small and sooner or later a new generation hotelier will figure out how to marry the streamlined efficiency of a new generation hotel with the traditional tour operator business. After all, if a busload of Chinese tourists pulls up in front of the hotel, chances are that every passenger carries a mobile phone and would be more than happy to bypass check-in and head right to their room.
Another focus of Florie’s work has been to work with hoteliers in building and promoting sustainable hospitality business. Hoteliers in Central America are sometimes required by law to maintain certain environmental practices. In other cases, scarcity of water or other products simply makes sustainability a necessary economic practice. And finally environmental friendliness is a strong selling factor for today’s nomads.
European hoteliers, both new and old generation, will have to follow suit. Soon it will not be enough just to put a card in the bathroom kindly asking guests to reuse their towels. Hoteliers will have to do much more to decrease their environmental footprint. The smart ones, however, will figure out how to turn this into a selling point. Or perhaps even a game! How about offering guests a discount on a future stay or a complimentary cappuccino if they use fewer than 30 kilowatts and less than 150 liters of hot water per night?
Florie regularly collects some of the best sustainability practices and writes about them at Hopineo, a website dedicated to sustainable tourism.
So while we follow Florie south toward South America, we’re not surprised that the properties she encounters are at first glance worlds away from the European new generation hotels. On the other hand, these hoteliers, some of whom are quite successful, are very good at areas where new generation hoteliers tend to ignore. Will the Central American hotels become more “new generation” or will the European new generation hotels become more traditional?
Stay tuned. Florie has several months left on her expedition.
Her Blog: www.thehospitalitytour.com
Her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thehospitalitytour